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Originally published December 11, 2010 at 7:04 PM | Page modified December 11, 2010 at 11:09 PM

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Seattle's Cookus Interruptus is an online cooking show and a sitcom

The webcast has a recurring cast of characters who wander on and off the set while the cooking is under way. The show is subtitled "How to Cook Fresh, Local Organic Foods Despite Life's Interruptions." These "interruptions" constitute the sitcom piece of the equation, and the cast members are all comedy veterans.

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PICTURE, IF you will, a wooded neighborhood near Lake City Way in North Seattle. The garage door is open and, inside, sandwiched between a bicycle, a snow shovel and a few coiled garden hoses, is a folding table. Covered with a cutting board, bowls and some vegetables in various stages of deconstruction, the table serves as the staging area for what looks like a catering job.

Inside the house, electrical cords and a camera block the passageway to the kitchen, where the klieg lights flood an island cooktop in the center of the room. The dining room has been converted into a make-up area and the living room is occupied by about half a dozen people working crossword puzzles, watching the action in the kitchen and talking among themselves. This, believe it or not, is the set of a cooking show.

Cooking shows abound, and most of them are pretty formulaic. Modeled more or less after the mother of all cooking shows, "The French Chef," which ran from 1963 to 1973 and featured Julia Child, these shows instruct the viewer on how to prepare a dish or series of dishes to compose a meal. Cookus Interruptus is different; for one thing, it's a webcast, not a TV show. More importantly, this one functions simultaneously as a cooking show and a sitcom.

With a recurring cast of characters who wander on and off the set while the cooking is under way, the show is subtitled "How to Cook Fresh, Local Organic Foods Despite Life's Interruptions." These "interruptions" constitute the sitcom piece of the equation, and the cast members are all comedy veterans.

Conceived by Brad Huskinson and Cynthia Lair in 2006, the show was originally intended to air on cable television; but when it didn't get picked up, Cookus morphed into a webcast that has gradually attracted a cult following. Lair, who plays "Cynthia" in the webcast, employs a tongue-in-cheek style that allows the viewer both empathy and a certain amount of detachment.

The back story, detailed on the show's website, goes something like this: Cynthia is a fresh-local-organic nutrition educator and cookbook author, just like Cynthia Lair, the actress who portrays her. Matt Smith, a professional auctioneer, actor and improv teacher, plays Cynthia's husband, Steve. Frank Buxton plays Steve's dad, a seemingly permanent houseguest whose wife is on "an extended vacation."

A fellow resident of Bainbridge Island, Buxton invited me watch them tape a segment.

In the episodes I watched, Cynthia's cooking lessons were punctuated by visits from Phil, played by actor Derek Kavan. He's a real-estate broker who's helping the family find a new home. In real life, the Lake City homeowner who loaned her kitchen for the set of the show has asked the cast to find new digs. Before the cast could find a suitable location in real life, they opted to tape a few episodes at a campsite where the show's family is holed up until a new location is found. Episodes filmed at the trailer air this month.

Confused? You won't be once you log on. Instead, you'll be thoroughly entertained as you learn to prepare tasty, nourishing dishes for your family and friends.

Greg Atkinson is a Seattle-area chef, author and consultant. He can be reached at greg@westcoastcooking.com.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes with Apples and Kale

Serves 4

For the sweet potatoes

2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled (if desired) and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

For the apples and kale

2 tablespoons butter, divided

Half an apple, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tablespoon unrefined cane sugar or brown sugar

1/3 cup dried cranberries

6 to 8 kale leaves cut into thin strips

1/4 cup apple juice

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, or to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the cut sweet potatoes in an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Stir the oil and spices together in a small bowl and drizzle the mixture over the sweet potatoes. Toss with a wooden spoon so they are evenly coated. Cover the pan and bake until the sweet potatoes are tender, 30 to 35 minutes.

2. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, prepare the apples and kale. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a skillet until it begins to sizzle. Add apples and sauté, stirring frequently. Add sugar and allow it to melt on the apples. Add the second tablespoon of butter and when it is melted, stir in the cranberries and kale, coating the kale with the butter in which the apples were sautéed. When the kale is shiny and beginning to get limp, add the apple juice. Cover the skillet and allow fruits and vegetables to braise for several minutes.

3. When the sweet potatoes are tender, remove them from the oven, cool briefly, then transfer to a large serving bowl and gently toss in the apple, cranberry, kale mixture. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of vinegar on top and fold in. Taste the composition. Add more vinegar or salt if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature. Will keep nicely in the refrigerator for several days.

— Adapted from a recipe by Cynthia Lair, 2010

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